As India reported yet another record single-day spike in Covid-19 cases, the Centre prohibited the supply of oxygen for industrial purposes to meet the current shortage in medical oxygen in the country.
On Sunday, in a letter to the chief secretaries of all states and Union Territories, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote, “In view of the rapid rise in Covid-19 cases and resultant rapid demand for medical oxygen, particularly in high-burden states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, the central government-constituted Empowered Group-II has reviewed the supply of oxygen for industrial use in order to divert the same to meet the rising demand for medical oxygen in the country and save precious lives.”
The decision will come into effect from 22 April and will be applicable for all except nine specified industries.
Oxygen is a critical component in the treatment of Covid-affected patients and many states and UTs are falling short of adequate supplies due to the unprecedented rise in cases. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday also said the national capital is facing an “acute shortage” of oxygen for Covid-19 patients and alleged that the quota of the city has been diverted to other states.
Amid the hike in demand, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade conveyed that it has already reached about “60 percent of the total daily oxygen production”, and is expected to rise further.
To ensure supply of oxygen in bulk rapidly, the Railways will also run “Oxygen Express” over the next few days to transport liquid medical oxygen and oxygen cylinders across the country. A Green Corridor is being created for the fast movement of these trains. Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra governments had earlier approached the Railways Ministry to explore whether liquid medical oxygen tankers could be moved by the rail network.
The industries which have been exempted are ampoules and vials, pharmaceuticals, petroleum refineries, steel plants, nuclear energy facilities, oxygen cylinder manufacturers, wastewater treatment plants, food and water purification, and process Industries that require the uninterrupted operation of furnaces, and others as approved by the respective authority.
The Central government on Saturday also issued an emergency order to ensure an uninterrupted supply of oxygen cylinders across state borders. This was the third such order in 24 hours, and is supposed to enable manufacturers and suppliers to supply medical oxygen to hospitals anywhere in the country.
The decision came as India recorded a new high in daily cases with at least 2,61,500 new cases and more than 1,500 deaths in 24 hours, as per data released by the Union Health Ministry on Sunday.
The country’s death toll now stands at 1,77,150 and the total number of cases has gone up to 1,47,88,109. The active number of cases in the country stands at 18,01,316.
This is the fourth day India has registered a spike of over two lakh Covid-19 cases. On Saturday, India had seen a surge of 2.34 lakh fresh Covid-19 cases.
Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi continue to contribute the highest load in the total Covid-19 caseload in India. All the states have been registering a record number of cases, every day.
The top five states that have registered maximum cases in the past 24 hours are Maharashtra (67,123 cases), Uttar Pradesh (27,334 cases), Delhi (24,375 cases), Karnataka (17,489 cases) and Chhattisgarh (16,083 cases). About 58.28 per cent of the new cases are reported from these five states, with Maharashtra alone responsible for 25.67 per cent of the new cases.
West Bengal, which is witnessing assembly election, has registered its highest single-day spike of 7,713 coronavirus cases, taking the tally to 6,51,508. The death toll rose to 10,540 after 34 Covid-19 fatalities were registered in the state.
Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said in a meeting with the health ministers of 11 states and UTs that the death rate has grown to 10.2 percent.
“India is currently reporting the sharpest growth rate of 7.6 percent in new Covid cases, which is 1.3 times higher than case growth rate of 5.5 percent reported in June 2020. This is leading to an alarming rise in the daily number of active cases, which currently stand at 16,79,000. There is also a sharp growth of 10.2 percent in the number of deaths,” he said on Saturday.
In the 24-hour period, 1,38,423 people also recovered from the disease, taking total recoveries to 1,28,09,643.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, 15,66,394 samples were tested on Saturday. As many as 26,65,38,416 samples have been tested across the country till April 17.
Several cities across the country, especially Mumbai and Delhi, have ordered weekend lockdowns, night curfews and lockdown-like restrictions to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Uttar Pradesh has also imposed strict lockdown on Sundays which will remain in force till May 15.
Meanwhile, India has administered 12,26,22,590 doses of the Covid vaccines till date, including 26,84,956 in the past 24 hours.
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